Saturday, July 5, 2014

Is the real evolution of gaming sleeping in the past?

At least 10 - 15 years ago, one could easily tell that every gamer was really hopeful about what was to come in the future as the end of a great gaming era was near. It is understandable that many people (especially younger gamers) would say that games back then had bad controls, primitive attempts at 3D graphics, awkward animations and similar faults, but on its core it was a very advanced phase in gaming history ruled by game design and story writing, meaning that for 50 dollars those video game aspects brought you some deep and compelling experiences that are still legendary up to this day. The problem is that somewhere along the way, everything that had been built up to that moment was just forgotten and replaced with half-baked practices. Don't get the wrong impression, gaming on this day and age is still great, but calling it an "evolution" is a little off, considering many of the things that were left behind and here are some of them.

game designer cartoon
Sad situation that happens even to the most famous of designers.

Freedom of design

The backbone of any video game is its design, it is something similar to making the layout of a stage on paper, drawing some platforms, some power ups, enemies and there you go, you have your own stage. Of course game design in the industry is not that simple, but it is as important as it has ever been. What happens with game design nowadays is that it should had stayed as it was, free. Writers and game designers make the hell of a team when they can work their ideas on a hassle-free environment, without somebody telling them that their ideas cannot be used because of some "market issue". For the writer it becomes very hard to come up with focused material if his/her ideas get blocked by the people upstairs. As for the designer itself, the time constraints, market trends and resource limitations have diminished what once was the biggest process in the making of a game and turned it in to an over-simplified version of itself.

 The making of Silent Hill 2

If you watch some "making of" documentaries about some older games, you can see how much creativity the developers poured into their projects when left loose with their creation.  These creative liberties are something that should had kept going in order for a real gaming evolution, as the creative minds would had met modern technology and would had been able to make wonders. There are some occasions in today's industry where games are designed as they should be, but you will have to look around a little in order to find them as it is not longer the rule, but the exception.

quick time events
Cutscenes vs game play. Which one you prefer?

Freedom to the player

Once upon a time, seen a cutscene or CGI video was something that was seen mostly as a reward. It was that small moment you had when you saw the story line advancing along with some eye candy, all in cinematic fashion. It was the graphic artist moment to shine and we all loved it. The problem right now is that sometimes if feels like some long cutscenes should had been game play instead. At other times a "quick time event" is all that it takes to ruin the game mood and leave you feeling like you should had played through that situation instead of pressing some button combination. 

Things like these take freedom away from the player, making the game shorter and throwing away some of the thrills that would otherwise be challenging and fun. It is as if they sometimes borrow things from the "on-rails" game play style to save some time or just try too hard to make it look like a Hollywood movie. As time passes there should be more game play and not less, that is one important thing in any game that claims to be part of the gaming evolution.

world map
Censorship should not be part of our modern world.

Freedom from cultural limitations and censorship

Cultural limitations have always existed, that cannot be denied, but for some time it seemed as if the line that divide games developed in different countries was blurring. Foreign games were trending in the west as well as American games were doing good in other places in the world regardless of topic or style. This train of cultural diversity in gaming was up and picking speed until censorship got tighter and it made it grind to a crawl. Now every game that is ready to be released suffers intense scrutiny that looks into the smallest of details in order to classify them as "not appropriate" for certain cultures. 

The acceptance of fiction for what it is has become something that the censors refuse to accept and this causes problems when a game tries to get a localization process. Along with censorship, another cultural problem is profiling. Marketing people have created this "rule" that basically profiles each region of the world and embed them to certain types of games and themes. This is also something that was at the verge of dying off, but made a comeback and (sadly for us) it is stronger than ever. It is hard to understand why haven't we parted ways with those things. Many other markets in the world have adapted to globalization, so why haven't the gaming industry done so?

angry gamer
The angry super "hardcore" gamer strikes again...

Freedom from ourselves

The consumer is a great part of what drives an industry and the gaming scene (that's us) is doing a poor job at it, even if it isn't entirely our fault. There was a time when a gamer's only concern was playing games and sharing experiences. At that time social networks weren't as popular, we relied a lot on magazines and word of mouth and all the tools we had as video game fans were simple, but at the same time a gamer was just a gamer, which helped to sustain an industry that was tailor made for us as gamers. Yeah, there were fan boy wars and things like that, but the community was not divided in niches, hardcore, casuals, "gamer wannabes", "real gamers", "dude bro gamers", "geeky gamers", "frikis" (in Spanish), "hipster gamers" and other labels that just seemed to turn it all into a game of factions, which gave game companies an incentive to divide the market as well and just give more attention to the "faction" that seems stronger instead of just the simple task of making games regardless of groups.

We as the consumers, got led by the marketing people into believing that we were all separated into groups, entirely working to their advantage instead of ours. Before that, they did not had a clear view of the market so that forced them to remain at a high level of quality at all times, but now they can just lay back and do whatever they want, following the easy money because they know what is trending and what is not. It is very unlikely for this to happen, but for a real gaming evolution to occur, we need to go back to been as single unit, gamers. This way we can throw a little fog of war in to the market and recover some of the advantage we had.

video game characters
If some of these characters have stood the test of time, other things must as well.

Wrapping it up

In conclusion, the real gaming evolution is all about making the gaming industry to be pro gamer again. It is the return of different things that we used to have a long time ago. It is the freedom of the past + the technology of today which equals a leap in gaming that we haven't seen for a long while. Graphics get better, systems become more powerful, but the core of the gaming industry is what needs to take some things from the past in order to really move forward, anything less than that is just a new version of the same thing.

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